The following is the summary of “Race and Sex Are Associated With Variations in Pain Management in Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department With Undifferentiated Abdominal Pain” published in the November 2022 issue of Emergency Medicine by Drogell, et al.

Control of patients in the emergency department (ED) largely depends on effective pain management. The subjective nature of clinical decision-making makes it difficult to prescribe drugs. White patients and male patients have always been given more priority when it comes to pain management. Researchers analyzed data from a major hospital network with a wide range of patient demographics to see if race and biological sex have a role in the pain management process.

This was a retrospective study of patients aged 18 and above who visited an emergency department (ED) within a hospital system and were diagnosed with nonspecific abdominal discomfort before being sent home. Patients were categorized according to race, ethnicity, sex, and insurance status, and pain was rated as light, moderate, or severe. The effectiveness of narcotics against alternative pain treatments was evaluated. In total, 32,676 patients participated in the research. Patients of color were less likely to receive narcotics for their nonspecific abdominal pain (12%) than White patients (22%; adjusted odds ratio 0.50; 95% CI 0.46-0.54). 

This holds true regardless of how severely a patient experiences pain. Furthermore, fewer narcotic prescriptions were written for women (16.99%) than men (19.41%; P<0.0001). This study offered a broad, up-to-date, multi-facility assessment that demonstrated inequalities in pain treatment methods based on race and sex continue, especially in the decision to treat with opioids. Additional research is required to identify the causes of these disparities.